Great minds think alike

From a bookmark bought in Oxford:

“A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The similarity to the Chinese proverb “與君一席話,勝讀十年書 (literally: A conversation with you at the table is better than ten years’ study of books” is striking.


London observations

Friends, I’m back from London and I feel… empty. I’d spent weeks preparing the trip, going through every details and now it’s over, I find myself directionless.

I plan to write a detailed trip report over the following week, starting with a few general observations:

Weather: I didn’t expect to return from London as a darker person (skin colour, not personality), as everyday was bright and sunny! The sun was even more intense than Hong Kong’s. It was great for photography, but all the jackets I brought became useless and wasted luggage space.

People: London seems more ethnically diverse than Hong Kong, where 98% of the population is Chinese. On the streets you can hear all sorts of languages and accents, including those of continental Europe, Indian sub-continent and Africa. Shops and restaurants are mostly staffed by non-white people, but regardless of ethnicity people are quite cold and distant, like in any big, stressful city. I did encounter some very nice locals who asked if I need help. Police officers are nice. Old ladies are universally kind and well-mannered.

Fashion: Although I’m not very fashion conscious, I did notice more individuality in clothing style, an observation shared by a friend of mine. Men, for example, wear more different jacket/shirt/tie combinations. Their shirts and jackets fit quite well and are well tailored, compared to the often baggy clothes of Hong Kong men.

On the extreme end, one woman was dressed in a Lady Gaga-esque fashion.

Transport: The tube clearly shows its age. Spoiled by the reliability of HK’s MTR, I find the tube’s frequent and unexpected closures very frustrating. Lack of air-conditioning was a major problem for me. Train compartments are also much smaller. There is only room for one person to stand between two rolls of occupied seats. Nevertheless, people don’t push even during peak hours. I really appreciate that. I also like the subway performers and poems on trains.

The “stand on the right” rule on escalators is observed strictly. In Hong Kong some people stand on the right, some on the left, and some in the middle with arms stretched!

Contrary to their reputation, rail services were very punctual. Guess I’m lucky!

Food: London’s dining scene is as varied as Hong Kong’s, but Hong Kong seems to focus more on regional varieties of Chinese food while other Asian (Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian etc.) and the major European cuisines (French, Italian and German) dominate the rest. London has more food from other parts of the world, such as Turkish, Polish, Nigerian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Brazilian and Lebanese, which are hardly found in Hong Kong, if at all.

British food really doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. Fish and chips is good; pies are good; sausage and mash is good; scones… let’s just say I eat them everyday.

Sight/smell: London’s buildings are more colourful and their designs are more varied, whereas Hong Kong’s, especially the new developments, look the same. Smell is a different story. In Hong Kong you can walk down a street smelling fishball, egg waffle, sewage, vehicle exhaust, tea egg, herbal tea, freshly baked bread, mildew, sea water and dirty sea water. It’s a sensory overload. Your nose will be less busy on a London street.

Shopping: Just one thing. London is an expensive city but British brands are much cheaper there than in HK. I bought a pair of shoes from Clarks for 79.9 pounds, or HK$934.83. Today I found exactly the same pair in Hong Kong, at HK$2,300!!!

Places I enjoyed: Museums, historical sights, towns (Oxford, Hampton Court, Hampstead).

Place I hate: Oxford Street (the crowd reminds me of Mongkok).